All photos and text by Jack Rothman
All rights reserved. No photo may be copied or duplicated without written permission.

Updated 12/27/16
Copyright 2016-2017

Located in the Bronx, New York, City Island is a small island, approximately one mile long and a quarter mile wide. City Island is surrounded by Eastchester Bay on one side and Long Island Sound on the other. Its bridge attaches to a roadway adjacent to Pelham Bay Park, New York City's largest park. In this area, and in the waters and wetlands, in and around City Island, many bird species thrive. Here, several and varied migratory birds are found. This website was created to help study, appreciate, and protect all the birds of this area.

City Island Birds
Since 2007

Welcome to City Island Birds. I created this website because this area of New York City is little known and underutilized by birdwatchers and other nature lovers. Pelham Bay Park, with its woods and wetlands is a critical stopover and nesting area to many migratory species.


Barnacle Goose at Orchard Beach

Jack Rothman


Traveling and Birding the Amazon

Several people have requested information about our trip to the Amazon.

Birding Interest- Past Articles

Important and Useful

The Wild Bird Fund   (Animal Rehabber)

New York Tide Chart

Urban Park Rangers

NY State Parks

Birdcast (Migration Reports)


Beginner’s Guide

This Barred Owl stayed in the park for months. He was not shy and saw so many human visitors pass through. Barred Owls are not usually disturbed from their daytime roost.

Brendan and I would see it each time we walked through the park and thought about giving him a name. While we were watching him, he was intently studying us.

Long-eared owls also visit our park. As I mentioned above, we would often see as many as five in one tree. When they realize they’re being watched or feel threatened, they elongate their body to camouflage themselves.

A Snowy Owl at Jones Beach, Long Island. Snowy Owls have been sen at Orchard Beach but I was not lucky enough to be there when they’ve been found. A few years ago there was an incursion of these owls all across the eastern USA.

Binocular and Smartphone Help

If you’re not familiar with how your computer or smartphone can help you be a better and more successful birder, you should read my little primer, link here.

If you need or want a new pair of binoculars, you might want to begin here. Binoculars have really changed in the last few years. You can get a fantastic pair for a few hundred dollars and a really good pair for less than $200. Years ago, there wasn’t nearly as much choice. You should link here for ratings.

Birding Advocacy

“The difference between a beginning birder and an experienced one is that beginning birders have misidentified few birds. Experienced birders have misidentified thousands.”

Pete Dunne

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This is a photo of a Saw-whet Owl, taken in 2008. At that time and in past years, these owls were pretty easy to find in our park. This owl stayed in a small hemlock that was in front of Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum. Across from the museum we would often find Long -eared Owls. The museum has changed the landscape by removing the trees in it’s backyard garden, removing much of the understory around the museum and destroying the trees where the owls once roosted. The changing of the foliage did make for a prettier and more symmetrical garden. But perhaps that’s the reason we no longer find migrating owls here?

Sometimes a friend would ask me to see an owl and I could almost guarantee I could find one. That is no longer the case. Note the green marking on this owl. It was put there by someone identifying and tracking this owl in the park.

Resident Great Horned Owlets from a few years ago. Note the younger birds in the tree cavity. This photo was taken in the southern zone of the park. In the last few years we have not been able to relocate these or other nesting Great Horned Owls in this end of the park.

Where are our migrating owls? For so many years we could look forward to seeing Long-eared, Saw-whet and Barred Owls in Pelham Bay Park. Sometimes we could find five or six migrating owls in one tree. In the last few years there have been very few. Perhaps one or two were seen briefly during the entire winter season. Is it because of the removal of invasive plant species, climate change, new patterns of migration or simply because our trees have grown too tall? Part of winter fun birding was finding these owls. Pelham Bay Park was always the place to find them and birders from all around the tristate area would come to visit. Thankfully we still have our resident Great Horned Owls and an occasional Barn Owl. Maybe the patterns from the past few years will reverse and our owls will return and stopover here.

Bronx/Westchester Christmas Bird Count

December 26, 2016

Preliminary Results Link Here

Two of our newest editions to our park are these Great Horned Owl youngsters. This photo was taken in April 2016. They were spotted in an old tree alongside a road in the park. When I was notified, I ran over and snapped a bunch of shots. The next day they fledged and were roosting in a nearby tree with Mom and Pop watching from a distance.